You guys, we need to talk.
Every year we start and end college football season with the same general consensus: the only teams who have a shot at the National Title are those who exist within the bubble of the Power 5. If you exist out of that realm, your chances are slim to none, and you’re simply fighting to possibly one day exist within that group. This is evident at the program level, as well as the coaching level. In it’s current format coaches usually lock into a Group of 5 program, gather some success and after a few years move onto a Power 5 job with hopes of eventually landing the upper echelon of those programs in due time.
College Football is a struggle of classes, it always has been and in its current setup it will continue to be so. So if you’re a Group of 5 program and you enter the season with no shot at a College Football National Championship, why are you there? Why do you exist?
We know why. Football is a money maker, Basketball too, but there’s more revenue to be made per week in season in the football realm, it’s also a much more physically demanding sport so the idea of giving 68 teams a shot is asinine. In basketball there’s at least concrete structure to how the championship bracket works: you win your conference tournament, you’re automatically in, however, you put together a strong resume during the regular season and we’ll turn it over to our committee to appoint the rest. In order for the equivalent to happen in football, you would need all 10 Conferences to have an automatic bid with the possibility for at-larges. Giving your Western Kentucky’s and Temple’s a slot in a football playoff over what the general viewer believes to be a spot for a “more deserving” program like Penn State or USC awards you with a gigantic mess.
College Football is still mired in a lot of tradition, so helmet and conference will always win above actually proving it on the field. Whether you think Western Michigan could hang with the playoff competition as it stands, why not give them a shot if they ran through their conference undefeated? Would they be worse off against Bama than Washington? If you went to 6 teams and gave Bama and Ohio State the bye and gave WMU a bid, who says they couldn’t give Clemson or Washington a run for their money? I won’t spend too much time on this as I’ve already discussed it, I’ll move on to my larger point.
The storied programs in College Football have had the decades to become storied. Newer programs shouldn’t be locked out of the chance simply because they’re newer, and that’s why it’s time to give Group of 5 programs something to legitimately play for. Using WMU as an example once again: they would have to go undefeated for 3 or 4 straight seasons to even be considered for a the 4-seed in the playoff, and if they lose even once along the way, forget it. By the time the program is seen as worthy of an appearance, most of the players that got them there are gone, the coach has probably moved onto another program too.
I know a lot of people are against a G5 playoff, but here me out here, because there’s more to this than just the playoff. College Football Conferences pull a large portion of their revenue from television deals and contracts, so it’s time for the G5 to switch things up a bit and create their own.
Many television networks are trying to break into the College Football broadcast platform and compete with ESPN for views and money. FSN, CBSSN, and NBCSN are the other big 3, of course TNT, TruTV and Spike also provide NBA and NCAAB coverage. Right now the G5 conferences are fighting amongst each other for table scraps for Network deals, take Conference USA for example which had a deal with ASN last season but has transitioned down to beIN Sports to hold a majority of their broadcasts. They’ve lost almost $3 million a year in network funding alone, which is a cut of over $200k per institution.
That’s a major issue they need to address if they want to stay afloat as a conference. It’s why it’s time to stop messing around secede from the P5.
Now don’t freak out on me guys, I’m not saying G5 teams need to become FCS, but they need to become a subtier in the same sense that FCS isn’t quite D2. FCS programs can move up into FBS, and G5 elevation into P5 should be the same way. Once this split has been established, the NCAA should sanction a playoff in the same way they do for FCS and work as a G5 group to create TV deals. Leave the amount of eligible scholarships the same, lowering it would lower the value of G5 teams.
You don’t have to just compete on Saturdays either, take a page out of MAC’s book and put marquee G5 games on Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday nights. Work out deals with Fox Sports 1 or CBS Sports Network and have them be the primary representative for the G5. Get a big package deal between 2 or 3 networks that can be split between the 63 programs and then create a deal for the G5 playoffs. Put bowl eligible non-playoff teams in the pool to play P5 teams for the myriad of Bowl Games that most of us don’t care about. Programs that continue to do well at the G5 level will catch the eye of P5 conferences wishing to expand, heck, you could even go crazy and use the Premiere League tier system and drop your lower performing P5 programs if you wish. Go crazy. Either way, it’s time for the Group of 5 to collect their own revenue, and psuedo-autonomy on our own terms is the best way how. After all, why should we wait until the Power 5 scraps us before we try to create something for ourselves? If we truly believe we’re not at their beck and call, it’s time to show it. We’re kidding ourselves if we think the Power 5 will do anything to protect the Group of 5 revenue stream when it’s pretty clear they see us as dead weight.
Shoutout to UnderDogDynasty.com by the way.